Second World War (WWII) | The Canadian Encyclopedia
A few Australians flew in the Battle of Britain in August and September, but the gun position manned by the 2/9th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, . Online Exhibition - Australia's Northern Territory WWII: Northern Territory. An Australian light machine gun team in action during the Aitape–Wewak campaign, June An aerial photograph of vessels burning in Darwin Harbour taken by a Japanese airman during the war. Australia entered World War II on 3 September , following the government's acceptance of Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies asked the British government to. During and after World War II, Australian uranium, supplied for the weapons . in Britain and Canada, and a more cautious attitude in relations to weapons.
C N Trueman "Australia at War" historylearningsite. The History Learning Site, 19 May Australia had a dilemma at the start of World War Two. When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in SeptemberAustralia had to decide whether to use her military to support Britain in the European sphere of war or to keep her forces in the Far East in view of the worsening situation there with regards to Japanese expansion.
Any serious Allied military defeat would also impact on the Australian military, which might be part of this defeat.
The Australian government decided that any major Axis victory in Europe against the British would almost certainly be decisive and change the course of the war — therefore, the government decided that it would commit all its forces against the danger Germany posed in Europe. Heavy artillery units were mobilised and outlying military centres such as Port Moresby, received supplies of weapons and ammunition in case such a declaration stimulated further Japanese aggression.
The Australian Parliament was united on a declaration of war against the Axis powers. The only potential problem was the issue of conscription. During World War Onethis had caused major political troubles. However, in World War Twoa compromise was reached.
Parliament voted in November for conscription, but conscripts could only serve in Australia itself and neighbouring islands.
Britain requested military assistance from Australia within a week of declaring war on Germany. However, the army was short of both equipment and manpower.
The man appointed to command it was Major-General Blamey. He was a man with a direct way of dealing with people and he took badly any criticism of his style of leadership.
Blamey had his supporters in the army, but there were also many who had not supported his appointment. In Novemberthe government announced that the 6th Division would be sent overseas when their training had reached a certain standard of proficiency. Training abroad in terrain more European or North African would follow so that the 6th Division would hone their skills in a similar environment to one they would be fighting in.
When Britain announced that they were concerned for the safety of the Suez Canal, it seemed logical that the 6th Division should be sent to Egypt to act as a deterrent to Italy. From Egypt, they could transfer to France it required.
The first troops left for what was then Palestine in January and over the next few months more brigades from the 6th Division followed. The rapid collapse of France in the spring of ensured that the 6th Division would not be transferring to Europe. The European situation also led to the Australian government forming three new divisions the 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions.
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Many in Australia simply assumed that the Australians would soon be involved in fighting major battles. After the Dunkirk evacuation, the Australian government started to re-focus on Australia itself. Many politicians rightly believed that the Axis victory in Europe would stimulate further Japanese aggression in the Far East and that Australia itself might be threatened. With so many of its army abroad, many felt that this would also stimulate Japanese aggression.
It was hoped that such a gesture would make it clear to the Japanese that any action by them would be met with an aggressive reaction. No such naval force was sent to Singapore. Another idea to stop Japanese aggression was to greatly increase the military power the Australians had in Malaya. This would require troops from the 6th Division to be removed from the Middle East and sent to the Far East.
However, at this time, Italy was expanding aggressively in the Mediterranean region and all the men from the 6th Division were needed where they were based. In Augustthe Australian government received an assurance from Winston Churchill that any threat to Australia or New Zealand would result in the Mediterranean Fleet being sent to the Far East immediately.
They met in Singapore. This required 65 percent of a unit's war establishment—or 75 percent of its actual strength—to volunteer and allowed whole battalions to become part of the AIF. In the British Army was in the process of re-equipping with new weapons, and a new organisation was required.
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This new equipment was not available in Australia, so it was decided to organise the first unit to be raised—the 6th Division —with some elements of the old organisation and some of the new. Artillery support was provided by three field regimentseach attached at brigade-level, as well an anti-tank regiment attached at divisional level and a divisional cavalry regiment which was equipped with armoured vehicles. Corps troops included a machine-gun battalion, and various engineer, logistics and communication units.
Several units, such as Z and M Special Unitswere also raised for irregular warfare as were 12 commando companies. Many corps, support and service units were also raised during the war to provide combat and logistical support. Meanwhile, the Military Board was responsible for the administration of the Army, with regular members consisting of the Deputy Adjutant-General, the Chief of Intelligence, the Chief of the General Staff, the Chief of Ordnance and a civilian Finance Member, in addition to a number of consultative members, under the overall control of the Minister of the Defence.
The activation of the Militia for full-time duty after Japan's entry into the war in late compounded the situation. Several middle-ranking and senior officers of the AIF were subsequently posted to Militia units and formations to give them experience. During this year the Army's strength peaked at eleven infantry divisions—the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th11th and 12th Divisions —and three armoured divisions—the 1st, 2nd and 3rd —organised into the First and Second Armiesand I, II and III Corpsas well as many support and service units.
Heavily reliant upon its allies for logistical support, it required more personnel in support arms such as ordnance and transport to be functional as a self-sufficient organisation.
This situation was most acute in ; at that time there weremen serving arms corps such as infantry, cavalry and armour, while there were just 29, in ordnance.
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Most of the units that were disbanded were Militia arms corps units, and by September the AIF outnumbered the Militia, havingmembers compared to just overInfantry, cavalry and armoured corps personnel numbered just 62, men, while engineers, signals and the medical services remained the same, albeit as part of a much smaller Army. Two of these divisions would have been used on garrison duties, while a brigade group may have been made available for British-led operations in South East Asia and the remaining division was to take part in the invasion of Japan.
The success of German mechanised units during the invasions of Poland and France convinced Australian defence planners that the Army required armoured units, and these began to be raised in when the 1st Armoured Division was formed. The two Militia cavalry divisions were first motorised and then converted into armoured divisions in and the 3rd Army Tank Brigade was formed to provide support to the infantry.
These large armoured units were not suitable for jungle warfare, however, and most were disbanded during and Each infantry battalion shed around personnel as various support elements such as the anti-aircraft and carrier platoons were removed and consolidated at divisional level.
Previously force structure had been heavily influenced by the British Army, and the decision to adopt an organisation to suit local conditions reflected a growing maturity and independence.